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Sunday, July 14, 2024

The NFL Lost the Sunday Ticket Trial: Here’s What Happens Next

  • The league has been ordered to pay more than $4.7 billion in damages.
  • Further appeals from the NFL will likely drag this case into 2025 and beyond.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL was dealt a major blow Thursday as its high-profile Sunday Ticket trial finally concluded. 

The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering the league to pay $4.7 billion to residential subscribers in the case, as well as another $96 million to business owners. Those figures can be tripled under federal antitrust law. But despite the defeat for the NFL, the saga is far from over. 

A source tells Front Office Sports that the next steps for the NFL will be filing post-trial motions, which will be heard by the trial judge, Philip S. Gutierrez, on July 31. If the verdict is not set aside, Gutierrez will likely then be asked to consider possible structural changes in the Sunday Ticket package, as well as plaintiffs’ lawyers’ request for an award of legal fees.

After that, the NFL would appeal any adverse rulings to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Payment of any damages and imposition of any structural changes to NFL Sunday Ticket are expected to be stayed until all appeals have been concluded.

Time to Pay Up?

Pending any inflation under antitrust law, the 2.4 million individual fans in the class-action lawsuit are now owed roughly $1,958 each, with the 48,000 business owners set to receive  $2,000 apiece. In total, the $4.796 billion the league owes would cost each team owner nearly $150 million each.

The NFL’s appeals could take months, if not years, though. So, while fans in the lawsuit received a big win Thursday, they won’t see any payments just yet—if ever.

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If the NFL ultimately loses, it may be forced to alter how it sells its media rights. YouTube is currently paying $2 billion annually for NFL Sunday Ticket rights for the remainder of this decade. But should the trial’s result hold up in further appeals, fans could end up seeing teams sell their local rights and out-of-market games end up on various streaming services or cable channels—an idea that the league considered in 2017.

For this season, though, there is unlikely to be any impact on how fans watch games. So, if you haven’t already, go ahead and look at your options for NFL Sunday Ticket on YouTube.

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